Expanding the definition of family

By Gili Knoller, Dance Staff

When I found out that I was going to a camp that was part of the Conservative Movement, I thought to myself: “how can I – an Israeli girl who had never even said Birkat Hamazon – be in a religious camp?”

Little did I know what an amazing opportunity it would be to be exposed to a world different from my own.

My goals this summer were to learn more about Judaism and religious life, and to learn more about my own Jewish identity.

I feel that I can’t describe my Jewish identity yet, but I can definitely say, that after two months of living a Jewish daily life, two months of praying each morning – I learned something very important. I learned that sometimes I forget to thank: thank people, to be thankful for the small and big things in my life.  In Shacharit, when we thank God for things and abilities in our daily lives, I found my way – I have been able to use this time to think about things that I feel blessed for, small, big and amazing things in life, that I am thankful for. With the assistance of my campers – I understood that giving thanks is an important part in our lives.

I lived with the Tikvah girls, and once during tefillot we were asked, “what are you thankful for?” I thought in my mind about my family, my friends, health and the big and important things in life. But my campers are smarter than me. One was thankful for the fruit bowl, one was thankful for being able to play basketball and for winning the game, another girl was thankful for shira (singing).

We can think of these as the “small” things in life, but actually – we need to be thankful for the ability to do or to have those things. For some people it isn’t obvious.  I want to thank my campers for helping me realize and understand that there is nothing in the world that is obvious.

Over the course of the summer, I tried to figure out the answer to a question that I was asked multiple times, “What is Israel for you?”  I thought about traveling around the country, going to the beach, summer time, and the feeling that Israel is my home.  But the main thing that I thought about was families. My friends from school are like a family, my friends from the scouts are like a family, as are my friends from the army, and of course – my own real family.

Here it is, the end of camp, and I now I can add to my list of families: my aidah (Tikvah), my cabin, and the Ramah tzevet (staff).  Beside all those small families, there is Camp Ramah in Wisconsinand each one of us is a part of this great family.

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